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For the love of literature

For the love of literature
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It was all about books and writers this week as book lovers from all over the country and abroad thronged to Rajasthan to be a part of the much coveted and celebrated event of the year – the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015. With the chance to meet authors from all over the world, listen them speak on their books, writing in general, and on global issues, the festival kicked off with a lot of anticipation from readers and authors alike. Also the rich heritage of Rajasthan came alive this week as the festival showcased the colour and culture of its home state to over two lakh visitors.

The annual event was founded in 2006, and it returned this week for the 2015 edition, which ran from January 21-25. Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, inaugurated the event on the morning of January 21 whilst local Rajasthani musicians Nathoo Solamnki, Chugge Khan and the Jaisalmer Boys opened the world’s largest festival with the sounds of their traditional, infectious music.

Since 2006, this annual literary pilgrimage,
Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), offers a fine balance among different writing genres that peacefully
co-exist and give the audience an opportunity to deliberate on issues that usually don’t find mention in everyday conversations. Ever since its inception in 2006, when it began on a small scale as part of the Jaipur Heritage International Festival, the five-day festival has been holding the fort on the same address: 17th-century Diggi Palace.

Reader-author interaction is a high point of the festival. The main aim of the event is to indulge the audience in sessions that don’t require them to be ‘passive’ observers, but ‘active’ participants.
“We have always believed that this literature festival is a place which makes people to think and respond to different views. Most of the time in our lives we act as passive listeners, but these five days should leave people with some afterthought,” festival co-director Namita Gokhale said.

“We like to keep our discussions open ended so that the audience can infer it as per their own thought process,” she added.

And with these thoughts, this year’s festival had chosen 234 luminaries from the field of art, literature and poetry to talk on various themes  that ranged from history, politics, cinema, art, travel and poetry.

This year’s literary heavyweights included names like Pulitzer Prize winning poet Vijay Seshadri, Nobel laureate V S Naipaul, father of modern travel writing Paul Theroux, 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, Samuel Johnson Prize winner and author of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher Kate Summerscale, Pultizer Prize-winning historian and journalist Kai Bird and the author of Family Life, Akhil Sharma, among several others.

Apart from this, lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar, who had skipped last year’s festival, also attended the event, along with other regular attendees like lyricist Prasoon Joshi, author Chandrahas
Choudhury and Suhel Seth.

Celebrated British poet Ruth Padel, Palestinian-American poet Fady Joudah and Sahitya Akademi Award winner Ashok Vajpeyi explored the poetic imagination with discussions cutting across forms and languages. Dialogues on art history and art appreciation, and sessions focusing on different aspects of Indian art also played a major role at the festival.

There was also a session on art as well as a look at the interplay between Buddhism and architecture. Acclaimed Pakistani painter, writer and academic Salima Hashmi threw light on the unknown masterpieces of Pakistani art. The festival also looked back at the distinctive literary  and visual arts traditions of courtly Rajasthan with cultural historians Molly Emma Aitken, B N Goswamy, Kavita Singh and Rima Hooja. Aitken and Goswamy also talked earlier in the week on the intricate miniature paintings of Rajasthan which has revolutionised our understanding of the courtly world and family ateliers that produced them.

Kathputli, the single string puppet theatre native to Rajasthan, was also celebrated at the festival. Experts Dadi Pudumjee, Puran Bhatt and Rajesh Bhat Nagori discussed this integral part of the region’s bardic traditions, with a history stretching back to thousands of years. Poetry and the poetic imagination has long been a hallmark of Rajasthani literature. ‘Dingal’ is a heroic form of poetry written in the nagri script and unique to Rajasthan, Gujarat and Sindh, Pakistan. Shaped by historical events, the acute martial rhythm of ‘dingal’ poetry is accentuated by a distinctive style of recitation, whilst pingal, a form of Prakrit, based on brajbhasha, evokes the sentiments of love and romance.   

On January 24, Rajasthani writer and cultural historian, C P Deval spoke of the history and charm of dingal and pingal, with recitations by Rajendra Singh Barhath, Shakti Daan Kavya and Gopal Prasad Mudgal.

Today, on the final day of the festival, three women writers; playwright, author and activist Mridula Behari, Rajasthani writer and critic Lata Sharma and poet and publisher of Simply Jaipur Anshu Harsh, will read and speak of the Strishakti that inspires their work.

Meanwhile, author, scriptwriter and satirist Ram Kumar Singh, of Zed Plus fame will speak of his engagement  with film and literature and read from his recent work. Poet, writer and translator Malchand Tiwari will also read from his recent book Borunda Diary and pay tribute to the late Vijay
Dandetha.
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